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[Pages 231-240]

CHAPTER X

The Killers

 

The charge sheet against the killers of the Jews of Zmigrod.
Osiek Jasielski and other Jews at the forest of Halbow, near Zmigrod, Galicia, Poland

 

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Members of the Gestapo office of Jaslo, Galicia, Poland that included the hamlet of Zmigrod during the German occupation during WWII. The poster of the war criminals was displayed at the police station of Jaslo following WWII. Max Findling visited the place where he was incarcerated during the war and saw the poster. He photographed the poster that showed most of the Gestapo men in Jaslo.The document is presently displayed at the local museum.

 

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A page of the original charge sheet at the trial of Ansberg, Germany.
Translated by William Leibner

 

The picture originally appeared in the German press when the German government decided to prosecute German war criminals who committed heinous crimes during WWII in the area of Jaslo. The poster asked people who knew these criminals to step forth and give evidence. The poster and the request were reprinted in many countries. A number of Jewish survivors like Max Findling, Leo Rosner and others gave testimony. It took a long time to assemble all the incriminating evidence. Finally, the German prosecution was ready and presented the case to the court of of the city of Ansberg, Germany. The charge sheet was extensive and detailed. It listed most of the Gestapo men in Jaslo that included Zmigrod.

 

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Dr. Walter Gentz, Kreishauptman,
of the Jaslo district.

 

Walter Gentz was born in Düsseldorf, Germany in 1907. He pursued his academic studies in the legal field, especially finance. He joined the Nazi party in 1928. He was awarded a doctorate in law. He advanced rapidly within the ranks of the Gestapo. In 1940, he was appointed finance inspector of the Polish district of Jaslo. that included and Zmigrod. In 1941 he was appointed “kreishauptman,” district leader, of the Jaslo district that included Jaslo, Gorlice, Krosno and Zmigrod. He immediately began a process of Germanization of the city of Jaslo. He was determined to change Jaslo into a German city. He brutally persecuted Jews throughout his district. He participated in all actions aimed at the Jewish population in his ditrict. He actively participated in the selection of Jews in Zmigrod . His sadistic behaviour to innocent Jews is beyond description. Following the war, he managed to find work in Germany until he was arrested and brought to trial with some of his assistants. During the trial in Ansberg, Germany, he committed suicide in March of 1969.

Ludwig Losackers, S.S. Shturmbanfuhrer
Wilhelm Raschwitz, was a “Hauptsturmfuhrer” or chief of the Gestapo office in Jaslo from 1941 to 1943. He was killed in battles with the partisans.
Ludwig Rommies
Salzer, Obersharffuhrer
Paul Baron, scharfuhrer
Laubenthal
Augustin
Walter Matheus
Albert Krischook
Theodor Drzyzga
Helmut Menz
Karl Hauch

 

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Karl Hauch

 

Erich Kuschke
Leopold Backer
Franz Zalser
Aton Neuman
Gunter Gutsche
Ernest Meber
Wilhelm Schumacher

 

The charge

All of the above listed people were members of the Jaslo Gestapo office and responsible for the physical destruction of the Jewish communities in the Jaslo district. The case was a compounded case since all plans and actions aimed at the destruction of the Jewish communities started in the office of Jaslo. This office received the orders and implemented them. The trial was lengthy and the defense lawyers had a field day with some of the witnesses, especially with their memories. The following people appeared as witnesses for the prosecution; Joseph Findling, Max Findling, Eisenberg, Leo Rosner, Pinkas Wohlmut, Moshe Einhorn, and Israel Hal.

 

Zmigrod, Part II of the Charge

Four days after the Jews of Frystak were killed; it was the turn of the Jews of Zmigrod. The Jews of this community were killed on July 7,1942. Zmigrod is located south of Jaslo in the lower hills of the Beskiden mountains. The estimated Jewish population was about 2000 inclusive of several hundred Jews from the surrounding areas. The Jews lived in the center of town while some of the Polish families lived on the outskirts or in the outlying sections of town. In town itself, the Jews were limited to their section and needed a pass to leave their area. People that crossed without a pass faced death.

The action was similar to the one in Frystak, although the apprehension of the Jewish population was greater since it was aware of what happened in the forest of Warzyce [the killing site of the Jews in Frystak]. Thus the Judenrat of Zmigrod received an order in advance to see to it that every Jew appeared at the given time and place. Most of the Jews were there already between six and seven a.m. The so-called Bals place was surrounded with German, Polish and Ukrainian police. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Gentz and the leadership of the Jaslo Gestapo arrived and the selection began. The Jews were lined up with their families and they were told to drop all their belongings on a blanket that was spread out on the ground. Young able-bodied people received a special stamp in their work permit and were ordered to leave the area shortly thereafter. Old people were then selected to the right. They were the first victims of the planned extermination. They were soon followed by Jews of different ages and sexes that were pulled out of their rows by the Gestapo men as was in Frystak. These hungry, nervous and thirsty people stood and endured the hot summer day. They were beaten with sticks, pikes and weapons at the slightest infraction.

Dr. Gentz took an active role in these events. He roughed up the head of the Jewish Social Self-Help organization named Rab. The latter once complained to the Krakow office about the many refugees that were sent to Zmigrod and how they overcrowded the existing facilities. Dr. Gentz took the complaint personally and ordered Rab and his entire family to join the people condemned to death. Even worse was his behavior to the head of the Judenrat, Hersh Eisenberg. He was supposed to collect money before the action began but postponed it and claimed that the Jews were too poor. Dr. Gentz called him a liar. He and some Gestapo men beat him with sticks, pikes and beer bottles. They insisted that he stand and watch the entire selection while blood flowed from his head. He joined the last transport. Different than in Frystak, the Gestapo men were under the influence of alcohol. Dr. Gentz ordered beer and schnapps to the selection site and the police helped themselves.

In Zmigrod, different than in Frystak, the Jews were transported by trucks to the killing site. Children and handicapped people who were unable to mount the trucks were simply tossed into them. The slightest resistance was met with sticks and rifle butts. The overloaded trucks drove from Zmigrod several kilometers south in the direction of Krempna to a place below the Krempna pass and above the village of Halbow. There, the Polish workers had dug a pit about 30 meters long, several meters wide and two to three meters deep. The Jews were told to undress and then pushed to the rim of the pit where they were shot. They fell into the pit. Several days later, the pit had to be covered again since the ground above the pit had risen. All together, on July 7th, 1942, at least 1,000 Jews and possibly 1,250 Jews of Zmigrod were killed at Halbow.

The trial proceeded at a slow pace due to the logistics of bringing witnesses from all over and providing translators. Assembling material was also a difficult task, as documents were scattered over many places. Still the proceedings took place and most of the killers were brought to the hall of justice. The judges were very lenient and most of the accused received very light sentences. The fact, however, remains that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes in Zmigrod were brought to light in a German courtroom, something the Gestapo men never dreamed would happen.

The murdered Jews at Halbow were not forgotten in some obscure forest in Poland. Their case was told and retold in the courtroom for some time. Their story was printed in the papers. The memorial of Halbow was rekindled. Jewish communities that lived for hundreds of years were wiped out by a few killers in a very short period of time for the simple reason that they were Jews. The Jewish community of Zmigrod and Osiek never revived following the war. The cemeteries in Zmigrod and Halbow are the only evidence of a past Jewish presence in these places.

 

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